An innovative plan to fill some of Whanganui's empty city centre shops has gathered momentum after a meeting on Tuesday.

Collective Whanganui aims to harness the city's artistic output to temporarily fill empty shops and other commercial premises.

Doreen Hardy, chairwoman of Mainstreet Wanganui's board, said about 30 people turned out for the meeting, the concept was well-received and the mood was positive.

"I've handed information packs and now, a day after the meeting, we're already getting phone calls," Mrs Hardy said.


She said the 50 empty spaces in the central business district was "not a good look" and Collective Whanganui would act as a matchmaker for people wanting space and those with commercial space available.

Those interested in setting up their "shop" would need to contact her for application forms.

"There's a small group who will decide which project is or isn't eligible, but ultimately it's up to individual building ownersto decide if they'll make space available."

The collective would also broker arrangements between those potential projects and the building owners.

"Collective Whanganui will manage the licence to occupy the building space, and we're also arranging liability insurance."

Mrs Hardy said most building owners were very supportive.

"People on both sides are very keen to see something happen."

Any business setting up temporarily would pay a nominal rental of between $25 and $50 a week to cover Collective Whanganui's costs.

"Our aim is to see if a business idea will work and, if it does, then the operator can look for more permanent premises," she said.

The empty shops in the city centre gained national notoriety last year when broadcaster Duncan Garner visited.

"Now we've come up with a plan to do something about it," Mrs Hardy said.

Councillor Helen Craig, who has responsibility for the central city as part of her council duties, said rejuvenating the city centre was attainable and affordable.

She said a review of parking arrangements, adjusting rates paid by retailers, saving heritage frontages and a simple facelift to the streetscape were on a regeneration "hit list".

Reviving the city centre was a key to both Whanganui's reputation and growth.

"It's fantastic to see the growing excitement in Whanganui through growing population, jobs, retail spend, house sales and incredible summer events. There's a tangible vibrancy to the air."

She said a vibrant town centre was important in helping secure the district's future.

"People are attracted to move to and visit a dynamic and beautiful town centre, making it easier to attract businesses, employees and their families, students, retirees and visitors."